AUSTIN, Texas—Raymond Huff, president of HJB Convenience Corporation, operates convenience stores in California, Colorado, Detroit, Michigan, and Hawaii, including the Russell’s Xpress unmanned convenience store in a downtown Denver office building.
Profiled in this NACS Ideas 2 Go video, “A Frictionless Experience,” Russell’s Xpress caters solely to office tenants and their visitors. When the pandemic hit and statewide lockdowns took effect in Colorado, Huff knew what was about to transpire—and it wasn’t just the unmanned store that took a hit.
“My convenience stores in downtown Denver saw a sales drop 80% or more since March 2020,” said Huff. Through the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides access to capital for smaller convenience store operators, and Employee Retention Credit funding, Huff was able to keep his stores open and staffed.
Huff recently worked with StrasGlobal to share his story and advice to small, independent operators.
“My message to all small operators like me is that it’s not too late. You have to be aggressive reaching out to make sure your company gets the resources available. I reached out to my state congressmen, senators and my mayor. I reached out to my local bank. I worked with my accountant and reached out to my payroll company to make sure I got loan forgiveness,” Huff said.
“Ray’s approach can be a template for other retailers who can take similar action right away and potentially save their businesses,” said Jessica Williams, director of Resource for Retailers at StrasGlobal. Here are actionable highlights from her conversation with Huff:
- Be Curious: Speak with fellow business owners in your community and ask them how they are keeping their doors open and employees paid.
- Be Proactive: Form relationships with your local bank, accountant, payroll service, mayor and representatives. Ask which funds are available and source local funding.
- Be Aggressive: While some funding is better than none, only you know what it takes to stay in business, so be upfront about how much you will need to continue operating and grow the business.
- Be Persistent: Receiving funds is the beginning; know where you will direct the funds.
“We can learn a lot from Ray,” said StrasGlobal President Eva Strasburger. “If you’re an independent business owner and your sales have been affected by COVID-19, there’s still money out there to keep your business open.” (Listen to more insights from Roy and Eva Strasburger in this Convenience Matters podcast.)
Information on government loan programs is included in the list of resources NACS has compiled to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis, For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.